A year in the life of a complementary therapist

Helen is Complementary Therapist Lead at Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice. She gives an insight into what complementary therapies are, how they help people receiving care from our hospices and the challenges the team has faced over the last year.

Helen, the Complimentary Therapist Lead at Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice
“It is very rewarding,” says Helen, Thorpe Hall Hospice's Complimentary Therapist Lead

A range of complimentary therapies

Helen, who has been a complementary therapist for 20 years, works alongside a team of volunteers to offer a range of complementary therapies to inpatients, outpatients, virtual day hospice members and carers.

“The treatments we give are a lot different in palliative care to any other form of treatments. Our treatments are a lot gentler – so we don’t give a firm massage and the reflexology points we use are different. The treatments we offer are also sometimes shorter for our patients.

“All together our treatments differ physically and mentally. Sometimes during a treatment we might listen to life stories from our patients, or chat to relatives in the room too.

“I really love it. It is very rewarding.”

Continuing to be there when it matters

However, following the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, Helen’s role significantly changed to help make sure the hospice could continue caring for local residents.

“The outbreak of the pandemic has been really challenging, especially without our volunteers being able to be with us on the inpatient unit with ongoing visitor restrictions.

“During the first lockdown, I took on a new role as PPE distributor for our Sue Ryder hospices and then during the second lockdown I became a lateral flow tester, testing visitors using our closed Sue Ryder shop on the hospice site. Everyone at the hospice was doing whatever needed to be done so we can continue to be there when it matters for the people of Peterborough.”

A virtual complimentary therapy session taking place on a computer screen
A virtual complimentary therapy session, part of the virtual day services now on offer

“Our members shared that they get a real benefit out of the virtual sessions”

Helen had to find new ways of providing treatments too.

“A year ago our day services became virtual, so we could continue to support people with neurological conditions via a weekly programme of virtual services and sessions.

“As part of this, three times a week I now offer virtual complementary therapy sessions to our members. I work with a member of the day services team to talk through and demonstrate a treatment on the screen – this could be reflexology or a head massage – and our day services members follow it through at home with a family member or carer.

“At first I didn’t think this would work virtually, but our members have become real experts at it – almost to the point that they don’t need me anymore!

“Our members have shared that they get a real benefit out of the virtual sessions, which is just lovely. Members’ carers and family members have really stepped up too. One members’ partner goes on to give the treatment three times a week as their partner enjoys it so much!”

Expanding the service to help more people

“In fact, our virtual complementary therapy sessions are working so well I am looking to expand it so we can give treatments to more people at home this coming year.”

Alongside this, Helen has other exciting plans to develop her service even further in 2022.

“I want to support people receiving bereavement care from our Family Support Team, offering them complementary therapy treatments at home. I would also really like to work more closely with our Hospice at Home team, offering treatments to patients receiving palliative care at home in Peterborough too.”

Back to being ‘hands on’ again

As some restrictions have eased, Helen is back giving ‘hands on’ complementary therapy treatments in the hospice, and has been able to welcome some of her volunteers back too.

“I now have a new complementary treatment room in the hospice. It is such a lovely, calming space with lots of ambient light and nice blinds and windows. It has a lovely, relaxing feel to it.

“To help raise funds for the hospice I have been offering treatments to our staff and volunteers, which is a great stress reliever to our care teams after they have worked a 12-hour shift. All I ask in return for a treatment is a donation to the hospice.”

“Patients tell me they feel so relaxed and the treatment is a welcome distraction for them”

Helen says she knows she has helped make a difference with feedback shared by patients or their family members.

“It is great when we receive lovely feedback from our patients or they ask for more visits. Patients tell me they feel so relaxed and that the treatment is a welcome distraction for them. When I am treating a patient on our inpatient unit we play spa music in their room so we can give them a really relaxing experience.”

Helen shares that there are a number of treatments which prove really popular: “Foot reflexology is very popular as it is the least invasive. The top to toe treatment is really popular too which includes a treatment for your back, head, neck, shoulders and feet.

“I really enjoy giving reflexology treatments and Indian head massage as it is the most intuitive for me as different pressure points relate to different parts of the body, and it is so relaxing. When I help relieve a headache or a back ache through treating the feet it is just so rewarding.”

Register for our day services

Virtual complementary therapy sessions with Helen are available to people living with neurological conditions in and around Peterborough as part of Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice’s virtual day services programme.

To find out more about how to register for this service please email sryc.thorpehall.dayservices@nhs.net or call 01733 225900.

Find out more information about Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice, the expert end-of-life care they provide and ways you can help to support them.